Day 16: Train ride

(Coming from the west…)

The train ride yesterday was unexpectedly relaxing.  I enjoyed it.  It was a 7-hour trip (after a 2-1/2 drive to Pennsylvania where we got on the train).  We watched the sky clear and lighten on our way to the train station in Greensburg, PA.  It was nice to get out from under the clouds although we did catch up with them a little later.  I don’t know where the clouds disappeared to once we were through the mountains of Pennsylvania.   The sky cleared up nicely from that point on.  The temperature got warmer too.  Much warmer than we’re used to at home.

(… and heading east.)

The foliage in the mountains has not changed color as much as I thought it would have by now.  There was some color but it looks like it will be a few weeks before it peaks.

One of the “thrills” of this train ride for M was Horseshoe Curve.  He’s been talking about taking the train through there for years and he finally got to do it.  Horseshoe Curve is located near Altoona, Pennsylvania and is a National Historic Landmark.  The Pennsylvania Railroad built Horseshoe Curve is two separate curves completed in 1854 as a means of getting trains west through the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.  Without the curves, the incline would have been too steep.

Horseshoe Curve has an interesting history.  It was guarded by Union soldiers during the U.S. Civil War and closed during parts of World War II when it was learned that the Nazis intended to sabotage it.

(Part of Horseshoe Curve.)

Sorry about the quality of the photo (and/or photos).  I can’t see them well on the laptop.  They are straight out of the camera and I’m hoping that aren’t as bad as they look from here.  The window I looked out of on this trip was terribly dirty.  I’m not sure how much of that shows.

The ride took us through the mountains of Pennsylvania, into farm and Amish country, and then into the suburbs and city of Philadelphia.

In Philly we rented a car and drove to New Jersey to get together with some of my family for the evening.  It was good to see my sister and her family, and my father.

All in all, it was a good trip.  As I mentioned before, I like traveling by train.  There is something romantic about it.  Relaxing too.  It was nice to be able to stretch out, read, look out the window, and get up to walk around whenever I got tired of sitting.

As for my get outside commitment, M and I hung around on the train platform for a goodly amount of time.  Although it was not my usual outdoor adventure, it was outdoors.  We listened to the birds chattering in between the noise of the freight trains as they roared through, kicking up quite a breeze as they passed.  It was a different sort of outdoors experience, but almost as nice.

This morning we’re off to a nearby park to get some fresh air and much needed exercise.  I’m looking forward to a good walk/run after all that sitting yesterday.

The hospice “life celebration” for Mom is this afternoon.  I can’t say I’m looking forward to going to hospice but it will be nice to gather together with my father and siblings again.

Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods

The Cog Railway ride up to the top of Pikes Peak was fun and amazing.  Pikes Peak is 14,110 feet above sea level and maybe it’s just me but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of oxygen up there.  Being at the top of Pikes Peak gave me a real appreciation for the reality of a rocky mountain high.  We were all a bit lightheaded.

I’m not sure the weather would be described as perfect, but it was close.  We were above the clouds and experiencing sunny weather at the top of the mountain.  It was a little chilly.  Hot chocolate and some of the donuts they serve at the visitors center warmed us up nicely.  It also took the edge off the lightheadedness (plain and simple water will do the trick too).  The donuts made and served at the visitors center are smaller and denser than what you usually find at lower altitudes.  We all agreed they were perfect.

Next weekend is the Pikes Peak Marathon when those in fantastic shape make the 26-mile round trip foot race up Barr Trail to the top and then back down again.  I mention this because some of the athletes planning to participate were training/acclimating today and we saw more than a few making their way to the top on foot when we stepped off the train that brought us up without any effort on our part other than to get up early and get on the train.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to run up and then back down that trail.  I’m not even sure I could walk it.

I have more photos to share when I get home and have time to sort through them.  The Pike’s Peak Cog Railway has been in business since 1891 (under various names and ownership).  It was a fascinating trip up with our guide filling us in on some of the history and Pikes Peak facts.  One of the most interesting aspects was something not included in the standard tour.  Our daughter-in-law noticed an area by the tracks near the top that looked like a grave.  On the ride down the guide comes around to answer any questions people might have so we asked about the possible grave site.  It is not a grave but a memorial to a couple who froze to death in 1911.  They were hiking to the top when the weather changed.  The train stopped for them, the conductor telling them they better get on.  They refused.  A few days later they were found buried under three feet of snow, dead.

Or so we were told.  I haven’t been able to check out the information.  It’s a good story, though.

Our trip to the top and back ended around 12:30pm so we set out to find some lunch.  We ended up at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs.  The food and beer were excellent as was the service.  I had the Peanut Crusted Tofu salad with sweet chile soba noodles, edamame, and pickled ginger.  Mmmm, good!

We went out to the Garden of the Gods after lunch.  I wanted to see the red rock formations.  I enjoyed our short hike around a small portion of the park.  M and I are planning to go back early tomorrow morning.  It might be interesting to see the rocks at or near sunrise.

There were several people out there doing some serious climbing on the rocks.  There were also several people out there who were allowing their children to do some serious climbing without the benefit of safety equipment or permits merely for the sake of taking a few pictures in spite of the fact that climbing is not allowed without a permit or proper safety equipment since there have been serious injuries as well as fatalities in the park as a result of inexperienced or unprepared climbing.  I suppose the parents ought to be considered as candidates for the Darwin Awards.

If I lived near the Garden of the Gods, I think I’d be out there throughout the various seasons and times of day just to watch the light play on the rock formations.  I’ve never seen anything like it before (other than in pictures or on television).

There have been a lot of new experiences throughout our trip so far.  Traveling can provide a great education is you’re open to it.

I’ll leave you with a photo from our time in Rocky Mountain National Park of the Colorado River (just because it’s pretty and it’s been uploaded).  It’s time for me to get ready for some serious hiking, starting with a good night’s sleep.  Today will be pretty full with a quick early morning visit to the Garden of the Gods, then a hike in a nearby canyon to see some waterfalls, and then a prairie hike.  After that we head back to the Boulder area for the rest of the trip so we can spend more time with M the Younger and Merdi.

Having your CAKE…

Yesterday afternoon M and I hopped into our trusty car and took ourselves off to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a town we’ve never visited before.  What brought us to Greensburg was The Palace Theatre and the band CAKE who performed a concert there last night.

(Warning:  Terrible photos ahead.  I had to shoot out the car window this morning when it was foggy and the windshield could have used a bit of cleaning.  There are no photos from the concert last night for reasons which will soon be revealed.)

(Driving into Greensburg.)

(Trying to capture the county courthouse dome.)

Greensburg is bigger than I was expecting (my own fault for not researching before we went).  I’d like to take some time to walk around and explore it someday as it looks like an interesting town.  We didn’t have time for it this trip.   We arrived in time to check into our hotel, have dinner, and then head over to the theater.  Or theatre, as the case may be.  There may be a another trip to Greensburg sometime in our future, one of the reasons for our quick drive through town this morning.  It was on that quick trip that I took some quick photos.

The Palace Theatre is a relatively small venue (it seats 1,369 people).  The theatre was opened in September of 1926 and is now owned, operated, and being renovated by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust.  It’s a beautiful theatre with a cute little ticket booth at the entrance.  I tried to take a photo of the ticket booth on our drive-by this morning but it came out blurry with car window reflections and not worth posting.  Our seats last night allowed me to visually enjoy exploring the original murals in the loge area that have been refurbished.  I love old theaters and I would venture to guess that a large percentage of the concerts M and I have seen over the past three decades have been in small theaters built in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

CAKE was great and it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve been to in a long time.  I’m not sure they would appreciate being described as “enjoyable” so let’s go with FUN instead.  And it was fun.  One of the problems I have with the small and some large venues is the sound.  It’s often too loud.  Songs-unrecognizable loud.  CAKE must have some great sound people because it was perfect.  Loud enough and clear enough.

I did not take my camera along for the show because the ticket clearly states on the back that cameras are not allowed (making it not worth the bother of trying to get one in).  This leads me to want to editorialize so bear with me for a moment.  With the advent of phones capable of taking photos as well as video, I’m not sure there’s a point to the prohibitions against audio and/or video equipment at concerts anymore.  Granted, you don’t want an unauthorized someone walking in with a professional system to record the concert and sell copies of the recording, but my point-and-shoot camera is not up to professional standards.  It is better than you might be able to get right now with a phone but I’ve seen some nice photos from phones and I imagine the technology is catching up quickly if it hasn’t already caught up.

That said, John McCrea (lead vocalist) made an outstanding point about it all during the first half of the concert when he made a small speech (badly paraphrased here since I didn’t memorize it) about how he understands everyone is carrying around their bit of modern technology, trying to capture, hold onto, trap, and/or keep the moment, but he asked that everyone put the technology aside and just BE in the moment.  Relax, have fun, be here now.  The idea got a big round of applause and cheering, although I’m not sure how many people put away their gadgets to do just that.  To be honest, my soapbox stance in the paragraph before this one was half-hearted as I have found that there are times when I’d rather do as McCrea advised and just enjoy the moment rather than record it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the audience participation portions of the concert, being part of the sound that filled the theatre.  My throat is sore today but that’s my own fault for being prodded into singing louder.  I love to sing and don’t do it often enough so the sore throat is a small price to pay.  Thank you, CAKE, for enticing me to join in the fun.

If you’re interested in contests, you can win a tree from CAKE.  They gave away a very nice apple tree last night.  Check out the CAKE Tree Gallery here.  The guy that won last night had to promise to plant the tree and take pictures of himself with the tree to put on the Tree Gallery so we can all watch as the tree grows older and stronger and he grows older and frailer.  Those of us who have planted trees know:  Such is life.

(In the Greensburg Train Station.)

If interested, you can check out the setlist (and listen to it) here.  A little personal trivia:  I can’t hear War Pigs (CAKE does a cover of it and they performed it last night) without thinking of M the Younger who plays the drums and practiced the drum parts of War Pigs over and over and over, incessantly, for what seemed like a long period of time.  Years.  I know the entire drum part well and can identify the song from that alone.

We stayed in a hotel about 7 minutes from the downtown portion of Greensburg.  This morning we drove back in to look for the train station as we have been giving some thought to taking a train ride and Greensburg might be easier and cheaper than Pittsburgh as a starting point for the not-quite-planned trip-in-the-making.

(Looking out the window of the train station.)

We drove over, parked, took a quick look around and then made our way back to the car and back home.

And now it’s back to my regular programming.  I got a call just a little while ago from Hilgert’s farm.  The yellow wax beans are picked and ready for me to bring home and preserve.  I’ll be blanching and freezing them as I prefer freezing over canning (less loss of nutrients that way).  I suspect that will take up much of my day tomorrow.  One day’s work for a winter and spring of locally grown, delicious and nutritious vegetables is well worth it.